ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey accused the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday of bringing chaos to the Middle East through its interventions in Libya and Yemen, allegations which are likely to inflame tensions between the regional rivals.
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a joint news conference following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia January 13, 2020. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was responding to criticism of Turkey’s role in the Libyan conflict, where it has deployed military personnel and helped send Syrian fighters to support the internationally recognised government in Tripoli.
The United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which back the forces of Khalifa Haftar trying to storm the Libyan capital, issued a joint statement with Greece, Cyprus and France on Monday condemning “Turkey’s military interference in Libya”.
Cavusoglu told Turkish broadcaster Akit TV that the United Arab Emirates, along with Egypt and other countries he did not name, were “trying to destabilise the whole region”, but he singled out Abu Dhabi for particular criticism.
“If you are asking who is destabilising this region, who is bringing chaos, then we would say Abu Dhabi without any hesitation,” he said. “It is a reality that they are the force that unsettled Libya and destroyed Yemen.”
The UAE did not immediately respond to Cavusoglu’s criticism.
Ties between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have been strained by Ankara’s support for Qatar after four Arab countries including the UAE imposed sanctions on Doha in 2017 over its alleged support for Islamist militants, which Qatar denies.
The UAE sees itself as a bulwark against political forms of Islam, and views Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party as a supporter of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood which it opposes.
In Libya, where the U.N. says it has supplied aircraft and military vehicles to Haftar, the UAE called on all parties last month to commit to a U.N.-supervised political process to end the war.
The United Arab Emirates was also a leading power in an alliance which intervened in Yemen five years ago against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement. It reduced its presence in Yemen last year but remains a member of that alliance.
Cavusoglu also accused the UAE of supporting Islamist Al Shabab militants in Somalia, where Turkey has a military base and is training Somali troops.
The UAE had trained hundreds of Somali troops since 2014 as part of an effort boosted by an African Union military mission to defeat an Islamist insurgency until Somalia disbanded the programme in 2018.
He made his comments after the foreign ministry in Ankara condemned Monday’s statement by the five countries, and accused France of “attempting to be the patron of this axis of malice”.
Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun, Editing by Dominic Evans and Timothy Heritage